tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 26, 2013 12:00am-12:30am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight the first of two conversations with finger linda ronstadt. -- with finger linda ronstadt. her crystal invoice is eminently crystalline voice is silenced due to parkinson's. her book is titled "simple dreams." we are glad you joined us. a conversation with linda ronstadt is coming up.
more. she moved from libretto to the mexican songs she learned from her mother and father. she has written a wonderful memoir called "simple dreams." here is a simple reminder of her beautiful voice. desperado, why don't you come to your senses ♪ for soe been out riding ♪ng you're a hard one ♪ ♪ i know that you got your ♪asons
>> still sound good? >> i remember a secondhand store. tavis: i am talking about your voice am a and you are talking about your blouse. does it still sound good to you? >> i love that song. tavis: does it still sound good to you? >> where did i get that vibe rob lowe? it sound like a billy goat. -- that by brought so -- that vibrato? it felt like a billy goat. tavis: you were here last time. i wanted to remind you of something you said last time you were on this row graham -- this row graham, and i quoted you around the world about this. program, and i quoted you around the world about this. you said part of the problem in
this country is either pollution and you'reution, right. there is so much noise we have to break through these days. >> it's depressing. everywhere you go there is a soundtrack. you cannot really hear it. we work so hard on those records andake them sound good, every single year since they invented sound recording, it gets better. which sounds awful, it's the first time in the history of recorded music it sounds worse. it's in every restaurant. it's in every shopping place. you cannot really listen to it. you think should be an experience. you should say, i want to listen to some beethoven. tavis: that notion of your pollution in restaurants. pollution in restaurants.
there are certain places i want go to because they play music so loud. >> other places they should not play it at all. even worse is screens. you get on an airplane and there is a screen. you get in a taxicab, and there is a screen. i think it's going to have a tremendous affect on our brain. those those bright colors do something to your brain in a way that i don't think is going to be desirable. historyhave 100 years of electric light. you would say, we might as well go to sleep. now you have all these things .linking i pollution and your pollution r- eye pollution and ea
pollution. >> i am going to add that. you said music ought to be a collective. when you were a kid, -- to be elective. when you were a kid, what did you listen to? >> i had an aunt who went to spain and brought home flamenco records. it was what we called gypsy music, although they like to be called roma. it was terrific music. he used to bring a lot of records from mexico. she was the edith piaf of mexico. i learned so much from her. i am just copying her. i am not succeeding. -- i wants so clear
to jump around. there is so much richness in this memoir. it's so clear that you were bored or inpatient or wanted to do something different. you always sound so many avenues to try to do new things. it takes a lot of courage to do that. >> music has never been boring for me. it is like that thing where -- did you ever repeat a word over and over again and it stops meaning what you wanted it to mean. starts sounding like white noise. happen. want that to i had too much respect for the music to let that happen, and i
kept looking at things i had experience as as a child. you find a mexican song or and a frankrothers song or sinatra song. it was all there. i would go to my grandmother's house, and she would he playing opera. play it on theey radio, but they played it on the piano. played the same, whether they were professional or not. you sick isn't just for professionals. we should be doing our own dancing and drawing -- music isn't just for professionals. we should be doing our own dancing and drawing. artists are healing themselves. everybody needs their own personal art to heal their problems. yous: when did you know
were gifted in this way? >> i thought everybody could sing, because everybody in my house could. everybody i knew saying. -- sant. they had -- sang. they had children's choirs. my brother was a featured soloist. he had agreed voice. i just thought everybody did it. know youen did you were gifted enough to do it professionally? said, i want to be a singer. i didn't the guy was going to get to be famous or a star. i thought i was going to get to sing in a department store. i didn't encourage -- occurred to me to challenge it.
it's so hard to do it professionally. don't plan on it. an icon like you says, don't plan on it, tell me .ore what you mean by that >> there is such a tiny percentage that end up doing it, and it's not just because they are the best ones. there are a lot of great singers who don't. i saw a documentary with a lot of girls i worked with. trying to determine what separates the ability to be a lead singer from a background singer. she was so beautiful. she was tall. she looked like a queen. she had beautiful cheekbones. she was fabulous.
something happened that resonates with the public. i cannot sing half as well as claudia. hats off to her. things happen for me. tavis: have you felt guilty about it at some of your background singers didn't quite -- about it. feel guilty anybody that gets their did it. fingers i may not like there to sensibility, -- a lot of singers i may not like their sensibility, but people don't get there without talent. tavis: there are a lot of people who don't become linda ronstadt. >> story is important. your story has to resonate with the public. personal story? >> if you don't have story, you have to be able to go, you have to listen to this. going toto go, i am
die if i don't get to tell this story. it has to be the first thing out of you. the weird thing that turns on you, once it gets to the listeners ears, it it should be the listeners story. how does the artist and power the listener to make that transition from it being about your story you want them to hear to embracing it as their own? >> if they get a slap in the face, a shock of recognition -- i have been through this before, that's when you succeed. that's when you do your job. guy like mick jagger, who is not as good a dancer as tina turner, isn't as good a singer as someone like claudia, isn't as great a writer as paul simon
-- he is greater than the sum of his parts. he's a great performer. there's no way you can ignore him on stage. it would be that much more because his tory resonated, and he was able to get it out there so urgently you just loved it. you don't care. you make this so easy for me. belafonte is a friend of mine and has been on this show so many times. he has a book out, has written a "sing your song." i thought about him when you said you have to tell your story. belafonte said you have to get the world to sing your song. story you havehe
been trying to tell us, the song you have been trying to get us ?o sing throughout your career >> it is everything from your heart to, i went to the store and they did not have what i wanted. it really can be completely mundane. it just depends on the intensity of your feeling. it changes every day. i would see a movie. i would be describing the story, but my goal would be to make someone else make their own movie. you talk about jagger. he is greater than the sum of his parts. what you were saying. i totally agree. he's not great at any one of
those things, but you cannot deny him on stage. his energy is off the charts. for me and terms of your performance on stage. >> i'm terrible on stage. i just look at my feet. i was a nervous wreck all the time. i think everyone has that fear. >> the stage scared you? >> it scared me half to death. >> i love to rehearse. there, and i would just be looking at my feet. it was a long time before i even said anything on stage, and i made such a faux pas. tavis: tell me. you have got to tell me. >> you want to hear it? i haven't told anyone.
don't tell anyone. in upstatesome place new york, and i knew a psychiatrist who is an incredible researcher, and i said, i am going to upstate new york, and he said, there is a thatrate of. he was saying as a researcher, so i get on upstate new went, york. i understand there is a lot of. i didn't say it to be mean. the audience didn't like me. just get nervous, and anything comes out of your mouth. it was a factoid i knew. it's what i knew. tavis: that's a great story. like nobody from upstate new york is going to any of my books.
you survived it. you kept selling records. >> i was horrified at myself. it is almost like you get shocked out of your body. your body is carrying on as if you are still in it. you are doing the best you can. isis: the flipside of that going to see a show, and the artist won't shut up. >> i like it when they are really on their game. i was in the audience when michael jackson came out and first did the moonwalk. beatleswent to the concerts to scream. i never screamed that anybody's show. i was on my feet, and we were shrieking our guts out. we would have gone anywhere with him.
it was a moment we connected. that's why he was the greatest pop star of any time. troubled guy, but whatever that was it was really powerful. i would have followed him to help. is that your sense that he was the greatest pop star of all time? >> i think so. he was one of the greatest singers ever, but when he got up there the way he could dance, he was just brilliant. tavis: you have been blessed to work with some of the great songwriters. talk to me about we recall content. how important has it been to you over this artistic journey? >> i think of the united states culture, it iso
the popular song, and the zenith period that started in the 1920's and went into the 1950's, and it was the great american standard song. the reason was migration. there were lots of labors of migration. there was forced migration from africa. that was mixed with the french, creole society in new orleans, because everybody was sent to europe to be educated, and they came back with all sorts of orchestral stuff, and there was a lot of complaining about how badly everybody was treated. they put it into a sophisticated context. in the in between was irish and mexican and italian and polish and all these people yearning. are the peopler who migrated from central europe
, the jews who came fleeing terrible persecution. you have the bottom, and you have persecution on the top that comes from europe. sophisticated based on the orchestra, and you can take --to give you a different example, that midler has a song that works on different levels. it is sexy, and you get the joke. those classic american standards work the same way. you can get it on sophisticated levels. you can get it on my heart is broken level. you can get it on i miss my home. hearts why it breaks my that we don't have immigration reform, because the people who migrate here and want to work
and are very capable because they have survived the trip here, they are great at adversity, which is the people you want in the workforce -- are being shut out. they are not allowed to give their best. this is a country of immigrants. tavis: one thing i love about you is you have been as courageous and brilliant at your own interpretation of the american songbook as you have been speaking your own truths about the issues you think the society needs to wrestle with. how have you dealt with that? have you paid a consequence? >> i think if you do what is in your heart -- joseph campbell says you have to follow your bliss. if you do, doors open or you did not even know there were doors. they bear a tremendous about debt -- tremendous amount of reinterpreting.
thought, what do i have to add? i had my own little story. there is such a great vehicle. everybody who takes it on gets to do so in such a way. clooney would make a song you hear a million times, and i never thought about that before. but i never listen to it in quite that way. there is always a chance you might be able to unlock the secret of that song and let it bloom so they will get what it's about. did i answer your question? it's impossible to talk about issues without talking about your relationship with jerry brown.
what do you make that life brings him back to the office? >> he has a lot of experience. that's a problem. bush junior -- here is a guy running the country and does not know what he is oohing. it was a catastrophe. jerry has had a lot of experience. tavis: he is doing ok? >> i think he is doing a great job. he started with the state that is a cropped. . always say cup -- is bankrupt i always say, spend more money. jerry is a tight wad. the government has to spend money during a recession, because they're spending is our earning. thank you, paul krugman. tavis: what is interesting one of the consequences you suffered from dating jerry brown.
remember the earthquake? >> i grew up in the desert where the first thing you learned is you do not build a house on the floodplain, and that beach is a floodplain. the beat is not a lasting thing. is ocean has -- the beach not a lasting thing. the ocean has a mind of its own. here we were in malibu, bad idea. there was one year of storms. the ocean decides to knock off a room in my house. it ate a room in my house and did a lot of damage to houses along there. the residents wanted help from the government because their houses were destroyed. gary said, i cannot do that because my girlfriend lives there, and if i help her they will say, i am giving her special favors. they were ready to come with pitchforks and burned the place down because he was not helping. beacht up and down the
and talk to the residence and figured out what was going on. my feeling is the beaches for the public. miles back a couple nobody should be able to build anything. it causes erosion. story to a takes the different level. he did not want to be accused of doing favors for his girlfriend, linda ronstadt, even though her house was falling into the ocean. stay right there. we are going to say goodbye for now, but tomorrow night we will have are two of our conversation with linda ronstadt. until then, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley.join me next time for the conclusion